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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Rosbash, Hall win Wiley prize

Published: February 8, 2013
Section: News

Professor Michael Rosbash (BIOL), the Peter Gruber Endowed Chair in Neuroscience and Jeffrey Hall, along with their colleague Michael Young of Rockefeller University, have been awarded the 12th annual Wiley Prize in Biomedical Sciences for the discovery of the molecules that control the circadian rhythm.

The discovery is significant to scientists who study sleep cycles, human metabolism and the response to drugs. It could help scientists develop new treatments for sleep disorders, mental illness and even jet lag.

Rosbash says his research began 30 years ago, when the experiments were the earliest research in the field. His team began by investigating the circadian rhythms of fruit flies and soon discovered that the same genes and proteins were present in all mammals.

Rosbash’s success draws attention to the debate over Brandeis’ dual identity as a liberal arts university and a research institution.

Most professors in psychology and the sciences have their own labs, where they conduct original research and often hire undergraduates and graduate students to work as research assistants.

Rosbash says that students gain more from their Brandeis experience because of “the opportunity to do research and nudge up against interesting people who do cutting-edge work.” He says that other elite liberal arts colleges, despite their strengths in the humanities, may not provide as many research opportunities in the sciences.

“Brandeis is still a hybrid between a research university and a liberal arts school,” Rosbash said.  “Even with our research, we’re still more engaged in teaching than schools like Harvard or Stanford.”